Breaking Down the Mariners, Week By Week: Week One

Kip ArneyCorrespondent IApril 13, 2009

SEATTLE - SEPTEMBER 24:  Starting pitcher Felix Hernandez #34 of the Seattle Mariners pitches against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Safeco Field September 24, 2008 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

I didn't see this coming. Five and two out of the shoot for the Seattle Mariners? Tied for the best record in the American League while ranked No. 2 in run differential at plus 10. How did this happen?

Hitting, pitching, and defense.

I, along with many others, thought the Seattle Mariners would be little if not any better than what they were last year, a 100-plus loss team. No big name additions were brought in to be big time contributors on the field.

The Ken Griffey Jr. signing was more about clubhouse leadership and bringing fans to the ballpark than hoping he puts up numbers that Seattle fans are used to seeing.

However, seven games in, the numbers don't lie and the Mariners are finding themselves atop many categories.

They rank fourth in the American League with a collective .277 batting average which is a little odd since only four players on their team have an individual average above that mark.

New addition Endy Chavez has been filling in very nicely for the injured Ichiro Suzuki at the leadoff spot hitting a team best .379 and stealing three bases thus far. I would expect Chavez to be bumped down to the two-hole in the lineup when Ichiro makes his return this week.

The Mariners have been very consistent with their offense and haven't needed to use the long ball to get production. They've only gone yard five times all season and two of those came on opening day in Minnesota when both Griffey and new center fielder Franklin Gutierrez helped power the Mariners to a 6-1 victory over Francisco Liriano and the Twins.

Another sign of consistency is apparent when you break down when they score their runs. On the year the M's have scored a total of 32 runs.

Here's an inning breakdown of when those runs were scored.

Innings --- Runs
1 - 3 ----- 11
4 - 6 ----- 11
7 - 9 ----- 10

Doesn't get any more consistent than that.

Another stat that is nice to see is that 10 of their 30 RBI are coming with two outs.

But there's always room for improvement as once again the Mariners are ranked near the bottom in walks. I guess for fans it's fun to see a fast paced game but as far as Baseball 101 goes, you want to make the pitcher work and see his repertoire of pitches instead of hacking at the first pitch.

Also alarming is the amount of double plays they've grounded into, 11, the most in the league. Four coming off the bat of Gutierrez including two in today's win over the Oakland Athletics.

But on the other side of coin is the pitching which has been stellar. Already four out of the first seven games have seen the Mariners starting pitcher give up one or less earned runs.

Although one of those performances came from young lefty Ryan Roland-Smith who was wild and thanks to a couple errors was not charged with any runs that he gave up while on the mound.

The starting staff as a whole coming into today has a collective earned run average (ERA) of 3.19 and that includes Carlos Silva's start where he gave up six runs in five innings to his former team, the Twins.

The entire staff has just a 3.42 ERA, which is good enough for second lowest in the American League. These pitching numbers do not include today's shut out win against the A's.

If not for a meltdown in the 9th inning by closer Brandon Morrow in the second game of the season against Minnesota, the Mariners would be the sole owner of the best record in the majors.

Along with passing the numbers test, watching them on television has also allowed fans to see the vast improvement in defense which the numbers don't tell. Franklin Gutierrez has been a vacuum out in center field, and when Ichiro comes back replacing Griffey in right, the trio of Chavez, Gutierrez, and Ichiro will save a lot of balls from falling in the gaps.

Coming into the season, I was definitely a pessimist and I still am as so many things that aren't normal happen in the first week of the season across the league. But I like what I see. And to see it happen on the road is all the more positive.

Now the Mariner's get to go home where they will host a pair of three-game series against more powerful lineups in the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the Detroit Tigers.

Offensive Player of the Week: Endy Chavez - 11 for 29 (.379) with a team high three stolen bases.

Pitcher of the Week: David Aardsma - 4.2 innings pitched, 0.00 ERA, 2-for-2 in save opportunities both in one run ball games.


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